Will the “Peoria Solution” Play? Why We Must Fight Against the Systematic Dismantling of Catholic Social Services

They have a saying in advertising which you may have heard, “Will it play in Peoria?”

That question now confronts the Diocese of Peoria and Catholics everywhere when it was announced that Catholic Charities of Peoria, starting February 1st, will transfer most of its staff and all of its caseload of 330 children to a newly-created non-profit called “The Center For Youth and Family Solutions” (CFYFS) which has no affiliation with the Catholic Church. CFYFS will place children with same-sex couples who have contracted a civil union through the state of Illinois.

Just today we’re finding out the legal efforts of three other Illinois dioceses (Springfield, Belleville, and Joliet) have come to naught. The Diocese of Belleville has chosen to morph its foster and adoption care services over to a new entity “Christian Social Services of Illinois” — you will notice they’ve dropped the name Catholic, but Catholics will still presumably work there, placing children with same-sex couples.

What we are witnessing here, I will argue, is the systematic dismantling of Catholic social services in this country. Back in 2006 Maggie Gallagher (whom I work for at the National Organization for Marriage) wrote “Banned in Boston“, an analysis of the shutdown of Catholic adoption agencies in that archdiocese. At the time she asked, “Is the fate of Catholic Charities of Boston an aberration or a sign of things to come?”

Sadly, five years later, we know that Boston was a sign of things to come:

Later in that same year of 2006, San Francisco catholic adoptions ceased and three staff members was transfered to work with the “gay friendly” California Kids Connection.

In February of 2012, The Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. was forced by D.C.’s new same-sex marriage bill to transfer seven staff, 43 children and 35 foster families over to the National Center for Children and Families.

… and now in Peoria and Belleville, Illinois.

Already gay activists are talking about that the “Peoria Solution” as the means to their goal: pushing Catholics (and their view of sexuality and family) out of the American public square:

“…if a diocese can make the serious and sober decision that it needs to reconfigure itself out from under Catholic orthodoxy in order to best serve children in need, then at least some well-​meaning Catholics understand the competing demands of doctrine and reality, and that the reality is this: Kids’ best interest can be served when they’re raised by same-​sex parents.”

That’s their view. That’s their hope and strategy.

When it comes to Catholic teaching, Cardinal Ratzinger when he was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith made the Church’s position on same-sex adoption clear in 2003 (in response to the San Francisco adoption fight — emphasis mine):

As experience has shown, the absence of sexual complementarity in these [same-sex] unions creates obstacles in the normal development of children who would be placed in the care of such persons [i.e. through adoptions].

They would be deprived of the experience of either fatherhood or motherhood. Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development.

This is gravely immoral and in open contradiction to the principle, recognized also in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, that the best interests of the child, as the weaker and more vulnerable party, are to be the paramount consideration in every case.

You can’t get more clear that that. So how do Catholic dioceses condone delivering children placed in the care of Catholic Charities over to non-Catholic entities that will have Catholics placing children with same-sex couples? I don’t know.

As Dr. Jeff Mirus points out, the Catholic employees of Catholic Charities and whatever agency they are transferred to have a moral responsibility to follow the Church’s teaching about what constitutes the welfare of children.

In other words, there is not just an institutional question here about what Catholic dioceses, Catholic Charities and other Catholic adoption agencies can do, the question is what individual Catholics may do, as Mirus writes:

[The Church] is required to vacate this role [of facilitating same-sex adoptions] because it is immoral for any person to place adoptive and foster care children with gay couples. Not only does it place such children at increased risk, but it directly participates in the mythology of gay marriage, which is based on a deep denial of reality with serious and inescapable moral consequences. […] it is not morally permissible for any adoption/foster care worker to place children with gay couples.

So, saying it is moral to place children with same-sex couples is not the teaching of the Catholic Church, it’s not the practice of Catholic Charities, and so for those same reasons it is ought not be the practice of individual Catholics. Kids deserve a mom and a dad, it’s as simple as that. Especially when there are so many married couples hoping to adopt, and especially when (as in this case) Catholic adoption and foster care programs have consistently received the highest evaluation marks for their services. (I should add that many couples in Illinois have already discerned themselves that they will be forced to no longer provide foster care to kids once the state contacts with Catholic charities expire — watch their stories here).

Phil Lawler adds a more pointed critique of what two dioceses in Illinois have decided to do, by comparing the choice of Catholic agencies that buckle on their principles to the choice that confronted the Maccabbees in the Old Testament:

The Maccabees fought valiantly, and suffered tremendously, to preserve the integrity of their faith. That’s one way to handle a conflict between government regulations and religious precepts. Now here’s another…

State law came into conflict with God’s law, so the leaders of this group [Christian Social Services of Illinois, formerly Catholic Social Services of Belleville] decided that God’s law would have to go. Something about having no god but Caesar, perhaps.

… The legal ties with the Belleville diocese are only now being broken, but it seems likely this agency stopped thinking with the Catholic Church some time ago.

Now Christian Social Services will enjoy the benefit of government grants that are denied to the adoption agencies that have retained their Catholic identities.

I think this last line helps explain why the “Peoria Solution” is so dangerous and why this isn’t just about Illinois adoptions. Let me explain further.

Think about the vast network of Catholic adoption agencies which provide a loving alternative to young women considering abortion. What’s to stop these organizations from being shut down over the same pretense? What, in other words, is to stop the “Peoria Solution” from becoming the national model?

(If you think such examples are outside the realm of possibility, just look to Britain, where the last Catholic adoption agency is closing over similar anti-discrimination laws being enforced. Some of these adoption agencies have been functioning continuously for over 100 years. No more.)

Think about the vast network of Catholic hospitals. What’s to stop them for pulling a bait-and-switch like what happened in Peoria and Belleville and re-opening as ex-Catholic organizations that perform abortions, sterilizations and, eventually, euthanasia? In fact, this process is already happening at Catholic hospitals, for instance, in the HHS denial of a key grant to the US Bishops over their position on abortion.

Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Illinois Catholic Conference, sums up well what is happening:

What “you’re seeing at the state level in Illinois, what you’re seeing at the national level in Washington, D.C., is a consistent promulgation of policies and laws that are making it very difficult for faith-based agencies that believe that marriage is between one man and one woman,” Gilligan said.

I would expand this to include Catholic agencies who hold fast to the Church’s teaching against abortion, contraception, and a host of other related moral issues.

It’s time for us to awaken to the fact that we must fight for Catholic identity at our universities and hospitals — it’s time to fight seriously for our Catholic social services to retain their full identity and freedom.

So what do we do?

Let me propose some simple principles (and I welcome other creative ones from you):

1. Catholic institutions have the right to administer their own affairs and to live out the full expression of their faith without wrongful government intrusion.

2. Catholic institutions have the right to compete for social service contracts in the public square like everyone else, and to have their religious convictions respected when they do so.

3. Politicians who fail to vote for and support religious liberty exemptions in laws pertaining to social services (such as adoption and foster care) and any other matters that impact Catholic institutions ought to be firmly warned by Catholics not to do so and voted out the next time they are up for reelection. Voting against religious liberty for Catholics is an anti-Catholic vote, pure and simple.

4. Catholics must conscientiously and actively support the Church and our Catholic institutions. We must focus our charitable giving towards Catholic institutions that retain and proudly promote their Catholic identity. They have the first right to our time, talent and treasure.

5. Catholics must be fully involved in the political process and be aware of events and movements which could threaten Catholic autonomy and identity at a personal and institutional level.

If Catholics follow these five simple principles, the “Peoria Solution” won’t play in Peoria, or anywhere else.



  • mykidscatholicmom

    It’s my Dad’s birthday. I thank God for my Dad. I’m also thankful my Dad was given life, so he could be adopted. That choice gave me life also, and it gave my children life. I am sad that the systematic dismantling of Catholic Social Services forced the office, where my Dad was adopted, to close its doors…

  • Dianne McCarthy

    I love the switching around to make it sound like the church is being persecuted. The church takes state money and expects to be able to push their bigoted agenda. If gay adoptions are legal and the church wants state money, they need to follow the law, by following whatever legal criteria has been set up for adoption requirements. If not and that’s being corrected in Peoria or elsewhere, good for them. I guess the church would rather see children stay in Catholic orphanages then adopted by a loving same gender couple. I’m sure they’d lose a few bucks on the deal.

    • Bruce

      Dianne, Fascist sympathizer, meant, “If killing Jews is legal, and the Church wants state money, they need to follow the law!” Dianne also wrote how she loves the abuse of children by willfully denying them a mother or a father. She then said something silly about bigotry when referring to the truth. Sad.

  • Max Effort

    This may appear to be naive, but I believe that the problem lies in the money. Whenever the state allocates money, it has the freedom and the power to determine how its money is being spent. And it has learned that, by using the power in its purse strings, it can regulate behavior. In fact, this is nothing more or less than extortion. The recipient must conform to the behavioral standards determined by the state or the funds are withheld.

    Any organization, Catholic or otherwise, that has become dependent upon financial handouts from the state, is allowing its standards, beliefs and mission to be compromised by the state through financial extortion.

    The best course of action is for the Church to let Caesar keep his money. Abandon all expectations of state funding. Let the Catholic agency (or hospital) function without state funding. Once this happens, the state loses its power to extort behavior.

    This also poses a moral dilemma for the individual who needs income to provide for themselves and their families. A decision to leave employment in order to avoid participating in sinful behavior (like abortion or sterilization) may create hardship in our world, but it is spiritually redeeming. The care of the soul must have pre-eminence over the care of the body. What does it profit a person if they have financial security through steady employment, if their soul is lost eternally? Catholics must live their convictions.

    Religious expression is not confined to the church or the home, but must be lived in public. Claiming to be Catholic while working in a position where the individual lives contrary to Catholic doctrine is providing non-believers with a picture of hypocrisy. This defeats the purpose of evangelization. Catholics must lead by example.

  • Robert

    Principle #2 is *the* key principle. I had never thought of it that way, but that principle sums up the entire debate. Do you support that principle or not? More and more, our elected representatives seem to be saying, “no.”

  • Dani

    Wow! This is quite disturbing. In my country we don’t have this problem…as yet. But I suppose we are heading there. Catholics have a moral obligation (and a financial one) to fund Catholic charities that uphold the teachings of Christ. If Government funding is the problem then a reneging of that contract seemed like the better solution than a name change and a change in principle. ‘What’s in a name?’ goes a long way here.

  • Elisa

    The “National Catholic Register” has an online article about this too. If you haven’t seen it, Senior Editor Joan F. Desmond spoke with the Bishop:
    Hope this sheds some light on things!



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